We can’t rewind we’ve gone too far.  ~ The Buggles  

It really wasn’t that long ago when radio was a huge phenomenon.  Then, so to speak, video killed the radio star.  Instead of spending time as a family, using our imaginations or laughing along with a radio host, we circled our TVs, zoning out in full zombie mode.

For many families, the dining room table became a place for guests-only, and nightly dinners were served on TV trays.  It became a habit of comfort, and one that led to overeating and and less communication with your family. Who needs to talk when the TV is doing it for you?  Before DVR, commercials might be that moment of relief where we’d converse.  Sometimes about the day, or possibly only talking about the commercial that’s on the screen.  That counts as interaction, right?

Then came the age of computers, cellular phones, and now smart phones and tablets. There are computer games for infants. Toddlers know how to navigate to their favorite browser games, and thanks to our mobile phones we never have to be truly “disconnected.”

But is that true? Or are we perhaps even more disconnected?

My friend Kim Shand once wrote about the importance of going on a digital diet.  We’re stuck in a society where, instead of looking at faces, we’re looking at each other through screens.  Facebook helps keep us all connected in such a way that grandparents can no longer show off pictures of their grandkids without someone saying “I’ve already seen it.” And at the local restaurant, park, or social gathering, you’re more like to see people with their phones out than talking.

How can we all be so connected, but so disconnected at the same time? How do we find a happy medium – and you might wonder, is there even such a thing?

Here’s a few ideas to reconnect to the people in your life that really mean something to you.  Not the high school friends you don’t really care about – but the people you see in your every day life.

  1. Set aside time to unplug.  Evenings are generally the easiest family time.  It might be a struggle at first, but set a time where everything is turned off (including the television).  If you have to start slow and wean yourself, give it a go, but sometimes it’s best to go cold turkey.
  2. Turn off the radio in the car once in a while.  Yeah, there are days where we need to zone and drive, but I’ve found that the more I turn off the tunes, the more my kids and I connect or sing our own songs together. Whatever you do, keep the music level low enough that you can hear your quietest passenger.
  3. Call a friend. Don’t text, don’t send an IM, actually call her. The human voice can be a beautiful thing, and when you’re talking conversations are able to flow in a way that typing just cannot.
  4. Get out of the house and if you can’t manage leaving your phone behind, turn off the sound and alerts. When you’re at the park with your kids really play and pay attention to them instead of checking your tweets.  Enjoy a date with your other half without worrying about whatever drama is going on your friends Facebook wall.

All in all, reality is about being connected.  You can have amazing connections with people online – I’ve met some fantastic friends.  However it’s the people in my every day life that lift my spirits and remind me just what life is all about.  If nothing else, next time you’re drinking your coffee, go outside without your wireless and people watch.  Enjoy the animation of people going about their day-to-day lives, the way their dogs perk up while they’re jogging along, and the way children notice every beautiful thing along the way.  If we look beyond our fingertips and computer screens, there’s a whole world of beauty just waiting to be explored.